Ivan Rabuzin. Primeval Flower
Forgiveness is such a difficult thing, Lord. Forgiveness of self, forgiveness of family members, forgiveness of political, cultural, and institutional evil, and yes, forgiveness of You for not giving us the life we expected. But, I also hear many miraculous stories of rape victims and concentration camp survivors who have somehow been able to forgive their tormentors of the most horrendous evil. You did that from the cross. Why then is it so difficult for us whose lives are rooted in and totally dependent on Your mercy to forgive those we are most tied to—our family and closest friends? Can we just talk about that?
How often You must have to listen to these utterly predictable complaints. “I am still so hurt by what my parents did to me all those years ago. My sister is horrible and will never change. My friend treated me so badly. It’s not right. I don’t need any of them; I have made a wonderful life without them.” And yet, there are the ubiquitous entreaties for forgiveness at the bedsides of death and the dark regrets for never having asked.
That darkness is in me too—it is called unforgiveness. You have made it clear that if I choose to hold on to my resentment and anger, You cannot set me free from the knots of my painful and twisted relationships. Will I confront that darkness and allow my heart to expand, or will I let it continue to shrivel from demanding love rather than offering it? It is well to remember that forgiveness was never a choice. It is an imperative, a command.
“Jesus, how many times do I have to forgive them when they keep offending me? Seven times?
Jesus answered, ‘Not seven times, but seventy times seven times!’ “1
Forgiveness from the heart is very, very difficult. In fact, without You it is impossible. Unforgiveness is unforgiveable. Without forgiveness, there can be no genuine love and no reconciliation leading to healed relationships. Throughout Scripture You call me to live in a constant state of forgiveness. Jesus lived in forgiveness and Jesus died in forgiveness. Jesus is the embodiment of love. How can I, in my broken humanity, ever become free enough within myself to choose to love and forgive those who have wounded me so deeply?
I am beginning to catch a glimpse of this great mystery of forgiveness by listening intently for Your gentle, soft inner voice calling me home to Your heart which is mercy. Your mercying love has existed from the beginning of time, long before human love ever touched any of us. Forgiveness is made possible by knowing that only Your love can offer me what human love is incapable of offering. The great tragedy of human love is that it always wounds, because human love is imperfect and tainted by needs and unfulfilled desires.
My life is rooted in Your love, and without it I know I cannot live. You alone can teach me unconditional forgiveness as I choose to turn my heart towards You in prayer. Such profound and healing forgiveness comes from a heart that does not look for or demand anything for itself-a heart that is free both to forgive and to be forgiven. It is this Divine forgiveness that I, as Your chosen, am called to practice again and again in the ordinary, difficult, everyday circumstances You have put me.
So, I sit in the deep quiet with You and ponder my own inner space. Do I hang on to humiliations, rehearsing the scenarios, and so keep myself paralyzed by them? Do I give space to voices that continually demean and judge those who have hurt me? Injustice is hard, but prayer creates space for grace. Again and again, day after day, month after month, I come to ask for Your help to find and hold myself in Your mercy. As I continue to come and continue to choose to let go of my resentment and desire for retribution—however fair such punishment may seem—my focus slowly begins to shift to Your mercy, and I find myself much more tolerant of the failings of others. The actual wound is never completely forgotten, but the power to hold me trapped in a continual replay of the event is broken. My heart slowly begins to open to a new way of seeing and loving. As my focus changes, my heart attitude begins to change from one of resentment to one of gratitude. I find myself breathing fresher air and moving in greater freedom. Then one day the resentment is just gone. I can love them anyway. I begin to live in compassion embraced by You, whose name is Mercy. I am free.
Unconditional forgiveness is the only authentic ground of any human relationship. You place no limits on Your forgiving love, so to forgive is to participate in the mystery of Your divine life. You take the mud and silt of our common humanity, transform it by grace, resting all on the foundation stone of forgiveness. Might I open my heart ever wider to receive Your love, rebuilding my life on this foundation stone of forgiveness and mercy.